Filipina wins ‘Nobel Prize of Business’ along with CEOs of cloud computing giant, African bank

Art Fuentes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2020 08:37 PM | Updated as of Sep 15 2020 08:44 AM

Felicitas Pantoja, CEO of Mindanao-based Coffee for Peace, talks to coffee growers and other stakeholders in Mindanao's coffee industry. Courtesy of Coffee for Peace

MANILA - A Filipina social entrepreneur based in Mindanao has won what is dubbed as the “Nobel Prize of business” alongside the CEO of cloud computing giant Salesforce, and the CEO of an African banking group.

Felicitas “Joji” Pantoja, CEO and co-founder of Coffee for Peace, will share the 2020 Oslo Business for Peace Award with Marc Benioff, the founder, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, and with James Mwangi, chairman and CEO of Equity Group Holdings.

“Each of the 2020 Honorees transformed their businesses, industries and communities through positive change, inspiring other leaders to follow suit,” according to the organizers of the Business for Peace Award.

Past winners include Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever.

Pantoja’s Coffee for Peace organization runs a café in Davao City, and helps marginalized coffee farmers in Mindanao find a market for their harvests as well as improve the quality of coffee in the country.

The organization focuses on promoting sustainable agriculture, peace and reconciliation between religious groups, environmental protection and fostering entrepreneurship among the marginalized.

Coffee growers gather the coffee berries for drying and roasting. Courtesy of Coffee for Peace

Pantoja said she first came up with the idea for Coffee for Peace after watching government troops and Moro rebels sit down and hold dialogues over coffee sometime in 2006.

“The more they talked (to each other), the less they fought,” Pantoja said in an interview with ABS-CBN.

She said Coffee for Peace is now providing sustainable livelihood to indigenous and migrant groups in Mindanao, enabling over 880 farmers to escape poverty and build their coffee production capacity.

“This recognition affirms that inclusive development can be a reality through social enterprise,” said Pantoja in her acceptance of the honor with Business for Peace.

The award-giving body said an independent committee composed of Nobel Laureates in Peace and Economics selected Pantoja, Benioff and Mwangi to receive the award this year.

Benioff was recognized for setting up Salesforce’s ‘1-1-1 model’ of corporate philanthropy, whereby a company contributes 1 percent of technology, equity, and employee hours back to the communities it serves, Business for Peace said.

Mwangi, one of Africa’s most renowned entrepreneurs, was recognized for allowing financial inclusion of Kenya’s unbanked population.

Business for Peace said Mwangi led Equity to become an integrated financial services group operating in 6 African countries with a client base of over 14 million including women and the youth.

Pantoja, Benioff and Mwangi will be formally honored in a ceremony during the Business for Peace Summit in May 2021 in Oslo, Norway.

Business for Peace’s partners include the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), United Nations Development Program, United Nations Global Compact, and Principles for Responsible Investment.

ICC, the largest, most diverse business organization in the world, has called the award the “Nobel for Business.”